Monday, April 26, 2010

Smile, You're on CCTV

Iveagh Markets, Francis Street, Dublin

If I'm ever to find my fifteen minutes of fame, it will be on CCTV. Those cameras strategically planted in places most likely to attract criminal activity are there for a practical purpose. But they also happen to hone in on the grim alleys and lonesome laneways, the boarded-up houses and abandoned factories that attract a lover of urban dereliction such as myself. If a coil of barbed wire catches my eye, I will stop, take out my camera, and snap a picture. A security camera, detecting the flash, snaps right back at me. From time to time I do wonder about the sad warehouse where all this dull footage is stored, the security equivalent of those pictures you might have of an uncle or a relative that's him taking a picture of you taking a picture of him. Nevertheless, when they do unearth these wasted rolls of film, I'm sure to be a speck in more than one.

Dublin is a city of beautiful ruins. Now that the docklands, once my favorite place for that ends-of-the-earth post-industrial lonesomeness, have gotten the full Celtic Tiger makeover -- that is to say they have been overdeveloped, overdesigned, and made so very, very shiny -- I have had to go in search of other places to walk, wander, and wonder.

Empty lots, sparsely populated lanes, coil after coil of please-feck-off barbed wire -- don't even get me started on the charms of Dublin 8. I can wander for hours on foot through its maze of decidedly un-scenic streets, or swirl figure-8s on a borrowed bicycle. The only thing I can't stomach about the place is the smell of the nearby brewery. Taking in the rank stink of roasting hops from the Guinness Storehouse has as much in common with the smooth satisfaction of drinking a pint of the same stuff as Gary, Indiana has in common with, say, Gary Cooper. There's no comparison, really. But fortunately, there is no nostalgic Smell-O-Vision iPhone app, at least not yet, and daylight in a forgotten corner of town like this provides all sorts of delicious photo ops.

The Iveagh Markets were once fully operational and have since have been left to languish in a corner of The Liberties. It's a beautiful early Edwardian structure, all brick and stone on the outside and a cathedral of cast-iron inside, that once was a bustling center of industry and now is a haven for crushed Bulmer's cans and wayward Tayto crisps bags. While I won't hail this as progress, there is a certain pleasure to be had in pondering the what-was and the what-may-be of a place like this. Possibility is all the more exciting because you seem to be the only one on earth who notices this thing behind a heap of rubble on the outskirts of town. To use one of my favorite bits of non-native phraseology, people simply can't be arsed.

Plans to convert the Iveagh Markets into a hotel were bandied about in the early nineties. The plan was approved by the City Council, then abandoned, for reasons that remain unclear. But I wouldn't mind seeing the markets brought back to their original function, especially when I think of the success of the St. George's Market in Belfast, which is my go-to place for sinfully good crepes and the best place to see a band of merry white-haired Ulstermen playing rambunctious Dixieland jazz on a Saturday afternoon. Very well, I might add.

But until the Iveagh Markets get their much-deserved makeover, I'm happy to go on admiring its grim coils of barbed wire, grinning as I snap away, securing my place in the annals of CCTV history.


Conan Drumm said...

Arrived via Radge's blognav, and always happy to discover other wanderer-snappers in the ebbing tide.

The other day I drove through a once important crossroads town west of the Shannon. The northern side of one axis has withered, the entire street looks emptied and unpainted for (at a guess) more than thirty years. The signage is slowly disappearing under the accumulating grime.

Jackie said...

"Possibility is all the more exciting because you seem to be the only one on earth who notices this thing behind a heap of rubble on the outskirts of town."

So beautiful, T. (Did I mention that I LOVE this project?)

Radge said...

I've been beautifully ruined in Dublin far too many times. Great piece Therese.

Therese Cox said...

Conan - Hi there and welcome. Glad you found your way over here, and I hope you'll come back to visit. I wonder what is the crossroads town that you described. I spent a very brief time last year in the lonesome West and found many places that felt like ghost towns.

Jackie - Thanks for that! I do get excited enough sometimes to consider doing unusual walking tours... but the only one I'd be qualified for is "Interesting Bits of Rubble I've Wondered About." Do you think there's any demand for it?

Radge - That wasn't a bit of your shirt I saw caught on the edges of the barbed wire, now was it? It seemed to have an unironed collar.

Radge said...

Couldn't be sure, I leave bits of me everywhere.

Julie said...

I'd register for that walking tour ... sad.